Monday, June 21, 2010

Separate But Equal

Flashbacks to law school, right? Brown v. Board of Education?

56 years after the Warren Court held that segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprives the minority group children of educational opportunities and thus that separate but equal is inherently unequal, the Israeli High Court cited the opinion in striking down what petitioners said was ethnic segregation.

Oy! And you thought Bush v. Gore created a stir...

The Israeli Supreme Court's ruling has resulted in charges of racism on one hand and infringement of religious freedoms, on the other. And now contempt orders, as people continue to ignore its ruling, with significant support.

This little dispute finds ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazim of European origin on the other side of the wall, literally, from their slightly less stringent ultra-Orthodox Sephardic peers from Arab and North African backgrounds. (Hmmmm.......)

The lead-in, from the New York Times article:

"The latest dispute erupted over the goings-on in a single, state-financed girls’ elementary school in Immanuel, a somewhat remote ultra-Orthodox settlement in the northern West Bank.

The settlement, with a population of about 3,000, has a majority of Sephardic Jews, as does the school in question, Beit Yaakov. But about three years ago, a group of Ashkenazi parents, who said they followed stricter religious practices than some of the Sephardim did, set up a separate educational track within the school, called the Hasidic track. A wall went up inside the building, and to prevent any social mixing the playground was split by a fabric-covered fence.

About 75 girls moved over to the Hasidic side — a few of them Sephardim who agreed to the more stringent rules and dress code. One of the original requirements was that all prayer be conducted in the Ashkenazi style, including the girls’ prayer at home."

The Time article does a nice job succinctly explaining why this is not a tempest in a teapot and the political importance of the ruling in the context of the population growth of the ultra orthodox, or Haredim, in Israel.

The Supreme Court's contempt order resulted from the parents of the Hasidic track students refusing to send their daughters to school with the Sephardic girls. As a result, the court ordered those parents to serve two weeks in prison. “It is about whether to listen to the Torah or to the Supreme Court,” one Hasidic track parent said. “We are going to prison with pride.” (I love my kids and all, but.....)

The Court in its contempt order alluded to the need for federal troops to intervene in Little Rock to enforce Brown v. Board of Education, and its hope that such action would not be necessary in Israel.

Often over cocktails (sometimes he'll forgo the Gibson for a Martini, but he likes them dirty) SFL and I remark, among other things, how open debate is often stifled here, and that does not seem to be the case abroad.

Take the first sentences in this Editorial, titled "The Lost Jews", in The Jerusalem Post, for example.

"A collective abandonment of authentic Jewish values seems to have overtaken the haredi community.

Nothing else can explain the phenomenon of tens of thousands of religious zealots, dressed in black hats and coats, congregating under the glaring midday sun to fight for the right to discriminate against their fellow Jews." (Is that a reference to the Beastie Boys' anthem?)

I'm all about terse prose that pulls no punches.

N.B.: Perlman is to Klezmer what SFL is to blogging.


Anonymous said...

GB, you sure aren't one to stay away from controversial topics--politics and religion in one post! Thanks for taling the helm while SFL is busy.

Anonymous said...

Israel, if it doesnt rein in its dogmatic right, is fugged.